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Confident of Gehlot’s Grip on MLAs, How Congress Plans to Put the Lid on Pilot’s Desert Storm

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress leader Randeep Surjewala during an MLAs' meeting, at CM residence in Jaipur. (PTI photo)

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Congress leader Randeep Surjewala during an MLAs' meeting, at CM residence in Jaipur. (PTI photo)

Congress sources said Ashok Gehlot is likely to call an assembly session next week to showcase his strength in the House and he has at least 103 MLAs loyal to him.

Top Congress leaders are still parked in Jaipur more than a week after Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot set the ball rolling for a high-stakes political drama in the state after making a sensational claim about attempts to topple his government.

They say they are on a mission: not just to survive this crisis but also to show the mirror to the BJP, as well as to Sachin Pilot and his supporters.

The Congress leadership, sources said, is keeping track of the developments in the Pilot camp and is in touch with some MLAs at the resort to learn what their next plan of action is. But this is not all. There is a plan to constitutionally outsmart them as well.

So in a sudden move, chief minister Ashok Gehlot went to meet Governor Kalraj Mishra on Saturday, with letters of support from two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, which withdrew support from the Congress government but has now announced they will back the administration.

Bolstered by the move, sources said Gehlot is likely to call an assembly session next week to showcase his strength in the House. His camp says he has at least 103 MLAs loyal to him – 88 from the Congress, 2 from the BTP and CPM each, 1 from RLD and 10 independents.

But what is the Congress plan behind calling an assembly session and a possible trust vote later? Sources in the party say it will show the confidence of Gehlot and with him looking in control, Congress hopes to win over some of those legislators who may still be in two minds to crush the revolt once and for all.

The Pilot camp has claimed that it has 30 MLAs, who were willing to walk away from the government - a number enough to bring down Gehlot’s government.

Calling the session, sources said, could also force the rebel MLAs, who have been near Delhi since last week, to come back and take part in the floor test when it happens. Speaker CP Joshi maintains that he has the right to disqualify the 18 MLAs, but will wait for the high court verdict on the pleas against the disqualification notice.

The Congress hopes that the high court verdict will go in their favour and by calling an assemble session, it hopes it will put pressure on the court to take a decision soon.

But the party remains hopeful it will have the numbers whichever way the court decides. If the MLAs are disqualified, it will help Gehlot in numbers and the Congress will sail through the floor test.

But the Congress is confident that even if they are not disqualified, Gehlot has the numbers to stave off the challenge. An abstention or absence by dissident MLAs during floor test would also help Gehlot.

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